Navigating conference presentations can be a formidable task, particularly for those venturing into it for the first time. The challenges of capturing and maintaining the audience's attention, delivering content with clarity, and managing nerves can seem overwhelming. However, the benefits of mastering this skill are multifaceted. Effective conference presentations not only elevate a speaker's reputation but also enhance the overall quality of the event, fostering knowledge exchange, engagement, and networking.
For event organisers seeking to enhance their conferences, and for speakers aiming to excel on stage, this blog serves as a compass. Whether it's an academic seminar, an annual general meeting, or an address at the opening ceremony of a large-scale conference, the principles of an impactful presentation remain consistent. Drawing on previous experience, the award-winning ICC Belfast team will offer real life examples which offer techniques to craft compelling narratives, employ visual aids effectively and engage diverse audiences. By amalgamating insights from various types of conferences, this guide equips event organisers and keynote speakers alike with the tools needed to leave a lasting impact in the dynamic world of conference presentations.
Understanding Conference Presentations
A conference presentation is a structured communication where a speaker delivers information, insights, or research findings to an audience, typically at a formal gathering. It involves sharing information, insights, research findings, ideas, or opinions with an audience gathered to learn and engage with the presented content.
In the diverse landscape of conferences, presentations take on various forms, each tailored to specific objectives and audiences. Understanding the different types of conference presentations is pivotal for speakers as it lays the foundation for effective communication and engagement.
Types of conference presentations:
Full paper - A comprehensive presentation detailing research methods, results, and conclusions, often accompanied by visual aids.
Short paper - A condensed version of a full paper, highlighting key aspects of research or ideas.
Workshop - An interactive session where participants engage in hands-on activities or collaborative learning under the guidance of a facilitator.
Poster - Visual representation of research or ideas displayed on a board, allowing for one-on-one discussions with attendees.
Discussion paper - A presentation aimed at stimulating dialogue about a specific topic, often involving thought-provoking questions.
Panel discussion - A group of experts engage in a moderated conversation, offering diverse viewpoints on a shared theme.
Roundtable discussion - Similar to a panel, but typically involves all participants discussing a topic with less formal structure.
Conference presentations - 6 Tips for Success
A good conference presentation hinges on understanding the audience's motivations for attending, tailoring content to their knowledge level, and maintaining simplicity and consistency throughout the talk. Conference presentations should always include captivating visuals and clear structure to enhance the delivery of information.
To ensure success of conference presentations, the experienced ICC Belfast team have curated a list of top tips that encompass effective content creation, delivery techniques, and strategies for audience interaction.
Practice and rehearse
Speak clearly and enunciate
Use body language
Use appropriate visuals
Encourage Audience Interaction
1. Practice and Rehearse
Practice is an essential ingredient for a successful conference presentation, as it cultivates confidence, smooth delivery, and the ability to handle unexpected situations. Begin by rehearsing on your own, and then practice in front of a colleague to receive constructive feedback.
For the 2023 SistersIN Celebration Event, Oonagh O’Reilly, Director of Sales and Marketing at ICC Belfast, organised for the cohort to come to the venue for a rehearsal. As the conference emcee, this ensured that Oonagh knew the key moments within the event programme and could tailor her delivery to keep the energy high. Furthermore, allowing the event organisers to get acquainted with the presentation space allowed them to get familiar with the environment, understand the technical production set up and ensured timings did not exceed the allocated slots.
Oonagh’s top tips for practice and rehearsing for a presentation:
Rehearse on your own and with a colleague - Begin by rehearsing your conference presentation alone, practicing each section while focusing on clarity and flow. Then, when you feel confident enough, present in front of a colleague you trust. This offers invaluable feedback on content, delivery, and overall impact and helps you fine-tune your presentation based on external perspectives.
Timing – Timing is not just important for an emcee, but for everyone involved in the event programme. It is crucial for maintaining audience engagement and respecting the event schedule. My number one advice for sticking to your time allocation is to practice your presentation with a timer. This allows you to adjust your pace, elaborate on key points, or refine sections as needed.
Get familiar with the presentation space – When I am presenting at an event, I will always take the opportunity to get acquainted with the space beforehand. For anyone presenting at ICC Belfast, our team will often encourage event organisers to explore the layout of the venue, noting where they'll stand, how the visuals will be displayed, and how their voice carries in the room. Familiarity with the physical setup, lighting, and technical aspects can significantly boost your confidence and adaptability during the actual presentation.
Speaking considerations are pivotal for the success of a conference presentation, as they directly impact the audience's comprehension and engagement. In the context of hybrid events, where virtual presentations are prominent, maintaining eye contact with the camera, speaking clearly, and encouraging interaction through virtual platforms offers an inclusive and dynamic experience.
As part of the 2023 Future Shapers Programme, Laurel Gray, Senior Event Manager at ICC Belfast, attended AIPC’s Annual Conference in Luxembourg. Laurel presented a whitepaper to senior event leaders from more than 50 countries on a new industry concept - E:QUAL - co-created in collaboration with Future Shapers peers to help raise standards of health, wellbeing, welfare, safety, recruitment, and training for event professionals.
Laurel’s top speaking considerations when delivering a presentation:
Cadence considerations - Pay attention to your cadence, ensuring a steady pace with intentional pauses for emphasis and allowing for natural breaths. When you incorporate well-timed pauses, you are allowing your audience to absorb the information and as the presenter it also gives you a moment to catch your breath.
Volume considerations - Mind your volume, especially if using speaking equipment, to maintain clarity and avoid straining listeners. Ensure your volume is consistent and appropriate for the room size and audience. If speaking equipment is involved, conduct sound checks before the presentation to avoid technical hiccups.
Hybrid considerations - In the realm of virtual presentations at hybrid events, pay special attention to your audience. Maintain eye contact with the camera, address remote participants directly, and acknowledge their questions and comments. Leverage the support offered by venues like ICC Belfast by utilising high-quality audiovisual equipment, reliable internet connections, and appropriate lighting.
Body language is a critical element for achieving success in conference presentations as it amplifies your message, establishes a connection with the audience, and conveys confidence. Nonverbal cues such as gestures, posture, and eye contact enhance your overall communication, making your content more engaging, credible, and memorable.
In 2022, Jenni Yau, Senior Association Account Manager at ICC Belfast, gave a quickfire presentation at the ICCA Global Association Forum on how legacy initiatives contribute to a successful ESG strategy. With reference to One Young World and the hybrid launch event that took place at ICC Belfast in 2021, Jenni spoke about how the passion of Team Belfast helped to win this event for the city in a year that coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Jenni’s top tips for using body language effectively when delivering a presentation:
Presentation style – For every presentation I do I like to tailor my body language to match the tone and style of the presentation. For example, if the content is formal, I maintain a poised posture and controlled gestures. For a more enthusiastic talk, I’ll try and express energy through dynamic movements and facial expressions that complement the narrative.
Expressing ideas and engaging audiences - Leverage body language to enhance the communication of your ideas. Use gestures to emphasise key points and visualise concepts. Move purposefully around the stage to maintain audience engagement and spatially represent different ideas or perspectives.
Maximising eye contact and avoiding reading – I believe when you establish strong eye contact with your audience you inevitably build rapport and credibility. Focus on connecting with different sections of the audience, ensuring everyone feels involved. Minimise reading from notes by practicing your presentation thoroughly. This allows you to maintain a natural flow and engage with the audience directly, fostering a more authentic connection.
Visuals are the cornerstone of effective conference presentations, offering a multi-dimensional layer to content. Well designed visuals, such as slides or multimedia elements, not only reinforce key points but also cater to diverse learning styles, enabling audiences to grasp complex information more easily and enhancing the overall impact of your message.
At the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference (TLCC) Europe 2022, Barry Connolly, Head of ICT, Digital, Data and Insights at ICC Belfast alongside Pete McKevitt, Head of Entertainment at Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall, gave a presentation to the Tessitura global community on our organisation’s digital transformation. Using visual aids, Barry and Pete's session, ‘Automation for Domination’, broke down the complex marketing and workflow automations that were implemented across our core systems including Tessitura in order improve the customer journey and improve the average working day for colleagues.
Barry’s top tips for using visuals when delivering a presentation:
Utilise diverse visual aids - Incorporate a variety of visual aids like graphs, charts, pictures, infographics, and videos to cater to different learning styles. When presenting, ensure each visual element directly supports the content you're discussing, avoiding overcrowded slides and opting for clarity over complexity.
Branding considerations - Align visual aids with your branding by using consistent colours and fonts. This fosters a professional and cohesive look throughout the presentation. As the presenter you will want branding elements to enhance rather than distract from the content, striking a balance between visual appeal and clarity.
Leverage the venue’s visual support – The venue's advanced technology should guarantee high-quality displays, sound, and smooth multimedia transitions which will elevate your presentation's impact and engagement. For example, state-of-the-art AV equipment available to event organisers at ICC Belfast will ensure a seamless integration of visuals into your presentation.
Storytelling and anecdotes serve as powerful tools in conference presentations, adding a human touch and emotional resonance to your content. By weaving relatable narratives, you engage the audience on a personal level, making complex concepts more accessible and memorable. Stories captivate attention, create connections, and help listeners relate your message to their own experiences, enhancing the overall impact and effectiveness of your presentation.
At the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) Festival of Learning 2023 event
Charlie McCloskey, Director of Events and Customer Experience at ICC Belfast, was asked to take part in a roundtable discussion about award-winning conferences. Charlie shared the real life example of accessibility enhancements made in advance of Harkin Summit to make ICC Belfast a truly inclusive conference venue. As a result, delegates of Harkin Belfast congratulated ICC Belfast and organisers on a fantastic programme and standard of the event for disabled professionals.
We’re going to use this as the standard and the mark going forward for making sure that all of our Summits are totally accessible in every way possible and that’s what you have done here.
Senator Tom Harkin, Founder of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement
Charlie’s top tips for captivating audiences through storytelling:
Illustrating complex ideas – I like to use storytelling to simplify intricate concepts. When you craft narratives that parallel your main points, this helps the audience digest the content because they can relate it back to their own situations or experiences. This engagement fosters better understanding and retention of your message.
Mnemonic purposes - Employ anecdotes as mnemonic devices to aid audience recall. Associating information with a compelling story makes it easier for listeners to remember key takeaways long after the presentation ends, enhancing the lasting impact of your content.
Crafting concise stories - Opt for concise, focused stories that directly support your presentation's objectives. Avoid digressions or long-winded narratives that might detract from your core message. Stories should be succinct, contributing to the overall flow of the presentation while maintaining the audience's attention and engagement.
Incorporating audience interaction into a conference presentation is pivotal for fostering engagement, active participation, and a sense of connection.
For Event Tech Live 2022, Dave Young, Head of Production at ICC Belfast, presented ‘Expectations of Venue Tech’ on the Innovation Theatre stage. Throughout the presentation, Dave encouraged audience engagement by inviting questions and incorporated interactive elements like QR codes which helped transform his presentation from a one-sided dialogue into a dynamic exchange of ideas. This involvement kept the audience attentive throughout and created a follow up action which extended his knowledge sharing between industry peers.
Dave’s top tips for encouraging audience interaction include:
Prepare for Q&A session - Allocate time for a structured Q&A session at the end of your presentation. Anticipate potential questions related to your content and rehearse concise and clear answers. This encourages audience engagement and allows attendees to seek clarifications, fostering an open dialogue.
Contact information on final slide - Include your contact information on the final slide, encouraging attendees to reach out for further discussions or questions. This accessible approach facilitates post-presentation interactions and extends the conversation beyond the conference room. I like to include a QR code that links directly to my LinkedIn profile.
Practicalities of virtual discussion in hybrid presentations - In the context of hybrid conferences, ensure smooth virtual interaction. Utilise technology platforms like those supported by ICC Belfast to enable remote participants to ask questions or engage in discussions. Allocate time for both in-person and virtual interactions, offering equal opportunities for all attendees to contribute and ensuring a cohesive experience for both groups.
The structure and format of a presentation hold the key to its success, as they determine the clarity and impact of your message. When preparing a presentation, it's essential not to jump directly into creating a slide deck. Instead, start by outlining your content, identifying key points, and structuring a coherent narrative. This foundational step ensures your presentation flows logically, engages the audience, and maintains focus on the core message before visual aids are integrated.
A well structured conference presentation generally follows a three-part framework: introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction should begin with a compelling opener to capture the audience's attention, followed by a clear statement of your presentation's purpose and objectives. In the main body, delve into your key points, supported by relevant evidence, data, and anecdotes. Maintain a logical flow and use visual aids effectively to enhance comprehension. Conclude by summarising the main takeaways and reinforcing your message, leaving the audience with a memorable closing statement or call to action.
How to Start a Conference Presentation
Starting a conference presentation effectively sets the stage for a captivating talk. Begin with a attention-grabbing opening, such as a thought-provoking question, a surprising fact, a relevant anecdote, or a compelling quote. After capturing the audience's attention, introduce yourself briefly and provide context for your presentation topic. Clearly state the purpose and objectives of your presentation, letting the audience know what they can expect to learn or gain from your talk. Briefly outline the main topics or key points that will be covered in the presentation, creating a roadmap for the audience to follow. This structured introduction not only engages the audience from the outset but also provides them with a clear sense of direction for the presentation ahead.
How to End a Conference Presentation
Concluding a conference presentation effectively leaves a lasting impression on your audience. Start by summarising the main ideas and key takeaways from your talk, reinforcing the core message you aimed to convey. Consider revisiting the roadmap you outlined in the introduction, showcasing how each topic has been covered. Tie up loose ends, address any unanswered questions or points of ambiguity to offer closure to your audience. End with a powerful closing statement that reinforces your message or encourages action. In your final slide, consider displaying your contact information for further engagement and questions. A well structured conclusion not only reinforces your presentation's impact but also ensures your audience leaves with a clear understanding of the content and a memorable call to action.
Navigating the world of presentations, whether for conferences, seminars, or meetings, comes with a set of challenges and questions. As you strive to deliver impactful talks and engage your audience effectively, uncertainties may arise. These FAQs aim to address some common queries related to presentation practices, providing insights and practical tips to enhance your presentation skills.
What are some common mistakes in conference presentations?
Some common mistakes in conference presentations include overcrowded slides with too much text, lack of clear structure or organisation, reading directly from the slides, not engaging the audience, and exceeding the allotted time. It's important to avoid these pitfalls and focus on delivering a clear, engaging, and well structured presentation.
How do you get over conference presentation nerves?
To overcome conference presentation nerves, it's helpful to practice your presentation multiple times, both alone and in front of friends or colleagues. Breathing exercises, visualisation techniques, and positive self-talk can help manage anxiety. Familiarise yourself with the presentation space, arrive early, and establish eye contact with friendly faces in the audience to build confidence.
Many of the ICC Belfast team have found this short video clip, ‘More confidence in 2 minutes’, based on a talk originally delivered by Amy Cuddy to be a useful resource.
How do you cite a conference presentation?
When citing a conference presentation, include the presenter's name, presentation title in quotation marks, the name of the conference, date, location, and URL if it's available online.
Conference Presentations at ICC Belfast
With state-of-the-art facilities and expert technical teams, ICC Belfast ensures seamless production of conference presentations, enhancing speakers' impact. The venue is equipped with cutting-edge audio visual technology, including high-quality displays and sound systems, ensuring that presentations are visually and audibly impactful. Our event delivery teams are on hand to provide seamless support, from setting up multimedia elements to troubleshooting any technical issues that may arise. The venue's adaptability is a standout feature, accommodating various presentation formats, including virtual conference presentations, and providing hybrid event solutions.